In the Journal of the American Medical Association, the study examines quality-of-life outcomes for the treatment choices most patients will face. Those choices include active surveillance, radical prostatectomy, external beam radiation treatment, and brachytherapy, a treatment that involves inserting radioactive seeds into the prostate. “Patients diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer — and that’s the vast majority of patients with this disease — face many treatment options that are thought to be similarly efficacious,” said Ronald C. Chen, MD, MPH, UNC Lineberger member and associate professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology. “Therefore, the quality-of-life differences among these options become an important consideration when patients are trying to make their decisions.”
The study is needed as prostate cancer treatment technologies have advanced, and as active surveillance has emerged as an important strategy for sparing low-risk prostate cancer patients unnecessary side effects. Active surveillance involves regular testing to check for cancer growth rather than immediate treatment, and many patients with low-risk prostate cancer on active surveillance may be able to avoid treatment for several years or altogether. The American Society of Clinical Oncology has endorsed active surveillance for most men with low-risk prostate cancer.
“There has not been a large-scale comparison of the quality-of-life impact for these modern options, until now,” Chen said. “Existing quality of life studies have studied older types of surgery and radiation that are no longer used, and patients need updated information regarding the impact of modern treatment options so they can make informed decisions about the choices they face today.”